SPEECH BY H.E. MR WEERASAK KOWSURAT, MINISTER OF TOURISM AND SPORTS
AT THE INTERNATIONAL TOURISMUS BORSE (ITB 2008) THAILAND PRESS
Friday 7 March 2008, Saal Berlin
Sawasdee khrap and good afternoon members of the media. A very warm welcome to all of you.
I‘m delighted to be here taking part in this extraordinary event. I look forward to meeting many of you and hope that this leads to many more discussions and exchanges in the near future.
I‘d like to begin by sharing with you a broad outline of our plans for Thailand‘s tourism
As one of the key drivers of Thailand‘s economic growth, tourism continues to play an increasingly important role in the country‘s national, economic and social development and ranks high on the national agenda.
Today, over 14 million foreign tourists contribute more than 12 billion US Dollars to the Thai economy. I have always believed that a vibrant tourism industry is one that is well-balanced, profitable and sustainable. A strong and efficient tourism industry will greatly benefit everyone involved and allow all stakeholders to enjoy their fair share of the resulting business.
With a democratically elected government in place, the Thai business community and our International Partners in business and trade are eager to see Thailand back on the path of growth as soon as possible.
I am a strong advocate of mobilizing the participation and support of all segments of society in order to move the industry forward. I would like to emphasize that every single player, every single stakeholder in the Thai tourism industry, whether in Thailand or abroad, is most welcomed to participate in this process, starting right now at ITB Berlin. I can reassure you all that our Thai delegation here in Berlin, will make the most of this opportunity to meet with our counterparts and build mutually beneficial relationships that will prosper well into the future.
Thailand has been searching for an inspirational theme that creates interest and excitement; a catalyst for action that brings people together and inspires each and every one of us to play our part. To create this momentum, The Royal Thai Government has officially announced 2008 and 2009, ―Visit Thailand Year.‖
With this newly-launched national tourism campaign, we aim to showcase the best of Thailand in many aspects. We are also encouraging investments in tourism related projects, whether large or small, as part of Thailand‘s 2008-2009 ―Thailand Investment Year‖
Thailand currently ranks among the ‗World‘s Best‘ in numerous readers surveys and online
polls conducted by the world‘s leading travel publications. In 2007 alone, Thailand won more than forty (40) internationally-recognized awards.
According to research findings, Thailand is noted for its warm hospitality, the friendliness of Thai people, cultures and quality of services. International visitors often describe their stay in the Thai kingdom as being a memorable experience.
Ladies and gentlemen
? We will strive to maintain this record of excellence and strengthen Thailand‘s brand
image by reinforcing the country‘s positioning as a year-round tourist destination that
offers excellent value for money.
Our government has announced a plan to work in conjunction with the local
authorities, private sectors, and communities to determine the appropriate measure
to ensure the sustainability of the environmental and natural resources. To cope with
the plan, we intend to promote high quality tourism, we will step up efforts and focus
more attention, especially to attract quality visitors as well as investors with a higher
sense of awareness of the diversity of global cultures and environment.
? Although Thailand continues to enjoy growth from established inbound markets such
as UK, Germany, France, Scandinavia, the US, Japan and Korea, in recent years, we
have pursued a pro-active marketing strategy and ventured into new high potential
markets. Thailand attracts a significant increase in visitors from Russia, China, India
and the Middle East. These are some of the fastest-growing markets for tourism to
? We have also been promoting a vast range of sophisticated award-winning products
to high potential customer segments.
Ladies and gentlemen
I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few of these niche market segments that
might be of interest to you.
First of all, diving. Thailand ranks among the world‘s Top 10 diving destinations and is one of
the world's most frequented diving destinations welcoming over half a million divers every
year. According to the organizers of Asia Dive Expo, Thailand is one of Asia's most important
The island of Koh Tao, Thailand‘s most popular diving destination for beginners, accounts for
approximately 30 per cent of all diving certificates issued around the world. Koh Tao also
ranks among the world‘s top 10 diving sites. Noted for its impressive tropical coastal
landscape and underwater world with coral reefs teeming with a tremendous variety of
colorful marine life, the island attracts an increasing numbers of visitors each year.
On the other hand, for travelers who come in search of relaxing rejuvenating and healthy
holidays, Thailand is also a unique wellness destination featuring dozens of first-class spas
and wellness retreats that offer a vast range of pampering, beauty and body treatments
derived from many ancient traditions in Asia.
Ladies and gentlemen
Having recovered from the Tsunami in 2004, the tropical island paradise of Phuket was
named Asia's Maritime Capital at the 2007 Chrisofle Asia Boating Awards. The southern resort
hub attracted the popular votes among the 20 judges, who awarded Phuket for its first-class
boating facilities, which include modern marinas, state-of-the-art docks and prime chartering.
―Meaningful tourism‖ describes the new wave in traveling. Today‘s travelers are no longer
fulfilled by just getting on a tour bus. They want to interact with the host community. They
want to go and learn something — to feel and touch. Many go in search of a life-changing
experience such as Buddhist meditation. This interest gives rise to new demand for cultural
immersion programs such as home-stays, farm stays and agro-tourism where visitors are able
to interact with local communities. Riverside communities throughout Thailand attract much
interest as they are ‗living museums‘ of Thai folk culture. This is what an increasing cross-
section of contemporary travelers – which includes school and gap-year students, people in
mid-career breaks as well as retirees – are seeking.
Ladies and gentlemen
? The strengths that have made Thailand one of the world‘s most successful leisure
destinations have also made Thailand a popular choice for Hollywood, Bollywood and
everything in between. Excellent climate; sunny, clear blue skies for most of the year,
the tremendous natural and cultural diversity for stage settings and backdrops;
skilled personnel with a ‗can do‘ attitude; service excellence and excellent value for
money as a film location and for pre- and post-production. Thailand is a location
In 2006, over 500 productions were shot and/or produced in Thailand. These include
movies, feature films, documentaries, TV series, game shows, reality shows, and
music videos. Hollywood box office hits and multi-million dollar productions that have
been recently shot in Thailand include American Gangster, Alexander and Rambo.
This June, Thailand will be hosting the Indian International Film Academy Awards,
one of the most prestigious awards for the Bollywood film industry. We expect to
welcome fifteen thousand participants from the global film industry. This will
significantly raise the awareness and reiterate the ―Thailand‖ brand among millions of
Ladies and gentlemen
? Thailand is very fortunate indeed to have a high percentage of return visitors who are
‗fans‘ and ‗Friends of Thailand‘. This includes many of you in this audience.
With 64 per cent of visitors to Thailand being return visitors, the Thai kingdom has no
shortage of fascinating tourism experiences to share with world travelers. These
include colorful regional variations in culture and cuisine, the mystique of Buddhist
meditation, rejuvenating traditional Thai massage for health, other health and
wellness and holistic healing techniques or beauty treatments based on Thai folk
wisdom. I‘m delighted to inform you that ―Muay Thai‖, Thai boxing, has become an
international phenomenon with a large number of followers in over 175 countries
around the world.
Let’s now turn to the overall performance for the tourism sector.
In 2007, Thailand welcomed 14.5 million visitors, registering a growth of 4.65 per cent over
2006, which is in line with our target. This year, we are anticipating almost 16 million
international visitors to Thailand, an increase of 6 per cent over 2007, with tourism revenue
estimated at 25 million US Dollars. The target for domestic travel in 2008 is set at 83 million
trips, equivalent to a 1.23 per cent increase which is expected to generate 12 million US
Dollars in revenue.
Germany is Thailand‘s second largest market in Europe, second only to the UK. In 2007,
Thailand welcomed half a million German visitors, an increase of 5.4 per cent over 2006. We
are seeing strong growth in the number of German first-time travelers, convention delegates,
students, and retirees. The average length of stay has now increased to 16 days.
In 2007, we welcomed a total of 3.9 million visitors from Europe, an increase of 11.8 per cent
over 2006. The countries with the strongest growth are Russia with a 47 per cent increase,
followed by Finland with a 29 per cent increase, and Sweden, a 23 per cent increase.
Overall, we‘re optimistic that Thailand will continue to see strong growth in visitor arrivals
from Germany and Europe. Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Eastern
Europe are the key markets in which we‘ve launched promotional campaigns, especially for
medical tourism, health and wellness.
In addition to Thailand being recognized as a world-class spa capital, hospitals in Thailand
are equipped with the latest state-of-the-art medical equipment and facilities and are staffed
by highly qualified medical professionals in all areas of the practice. When compared to the
services a foreign patient receives in their home country, most indicate that the services
provided by medical facilities in Thailand offer far greater value for money.
It is indeed a major advantage for Thailand that we are given a very positive image around
the world. This enables Thailand to hold a significant competitive advantage over many other
Asian destinations. This is largely due to support from our media friends around the world,
for which we are very grateful.
We have made a conscious effort to shift our focus concentrating on quality rather than
quantity. This will continue to be our guiding principle in the coming years.
We have also repositioned our product offerings in response to changes in consumer
behavior. We took stock of our inventory of products and re-classified them into seven
distinct categories, presented under the theme of ―Seven Amazing Wonders of Thailand‖ .
These seven sub-themes are Thainess. Treasure products, which include Land of Heritage
and History covering the World Heritage and historical sites, temples, and Thai museums.
Beaches. Nature. Health and Wellness. Trendy. And Festivities.
By offering niche tourism products that cater to the needs and interests of individual market
segments, this helps us to promote our newly-launched ‗Visit Thailand Year‘ with greater
precision. The ―Seven Amazing Wonders of Thailand‖ theme helps travelers to form a much
clearer mental picture of ―Destination Thailand‖ and enables them to make travel decisions
quicker and easier.
Ladies and gentlemen
? As many of you know, the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, or TCEB, was
established as a private organization dedicated solely to the promotion of Meetings,
Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions to be hosted in Thailand. In the past three to
four years, Thailand‘s Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions, or ―MICE‖,
industry has enjoyed an annual growth rate of approximately 20 per cent. We expect
to see this continue for the next few years.
Thai Airways International, our national carrier, is also coordinating with TCEB to
achieve this objective by increasing its activity in the MICE market not only in
Thailand, but also throughout the rest of Southeast Asian region, especially during
low traffic seasons, during mid-week and less popular flight departure times.
I’d now like to highlight some of the new developments.
? Although there was speculation regarding an economic slowdown in Thailand over
the past year, there was a steady increase in demand for hotel and resort
accommodation and holiday homes from domestic as well as international tourists
and long-stay visitors. As a result, international property developers remained
confident and pursued many new projects. Much of this property investment is
concentrated in key high growth, high potential resort destinations such as Hua Hin,
Pranburi, Phuket, Khao Lak, Phang-nga, Krabi, Samui, Chiang Mai and Pattaya. This
is also in line with ―The Royal Coast‖ or ―Thailand Riviera‖ project, which will offer an
even more impressive scheme for mega-investments around and all the way along
the Gulf of Thailand starting from the first sand dune from the far east of the Gulf, in
Chanthaburi, passing through the entire Eastern Seaboard, touching Pattaya, estuary and mangrove in Samut Prakan, Bangkok, fisherman town of Samut Sakhon, the stretch of fine beaches along the upper part of the Gulf and continued to the stunning water front of the Southern coast.
The Royal Coast, or Thailand Riviera, offers an unlimited investment opportunities for those who believe in the charm of water sports complex, aquarium, theme parks, recreational activities, luxury transportation along and connecting to various destinations along the entire coast line.
For the lower part of the Gulf and in connection with the Andaman sea, the first and only seaplane shuttle service is now available. Visitors can now enjoy this new door-to-door service to most major hotels and resorts in Phi Phi Island, Krabi and Koh Lanta. The shuttle departs from Phuket International Airport and lands directly in the waterfront of most major hotel resorts. Further landing locations are planned for Similans, Koh Racha, and Khao Lak.
? With a steady increase in the number of luxury resorts and spas and prime properties opening in the ‗Royal Paradise‘ of Hua Hin, Thailand‘s first seaside resort is attracting an ever-increasing number of affluent international travelers. This has also led to a demand for an air shuttle service that provides a convenient and welcome alternative to the three-hour drive from Bangkok to Hua Hin, and neighboring Pranburi. The 40 minute Bangkok-Hua Hin air-shuttle service reduces the travel time between Bangkok and Hua Hin by more than two hours and essentially provides an express transfer service for hotel guests, particularly for travelers arriving on long-haul flights from Europe.
? Thai Airways International has recently launched its twice daily service to the popular southern resort island of Samui in February 2008. THAI aims to make the route very competitive by marketing it to tourists from major European cities currently served by THAI connecting through Suvarnabhumi Airport.
From another perspective, the Western part of Thailand is also home of the limestone mountain range which stretches from Kanchanaburi all the way up to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. We have discovered at least 112 hot springs of various types which have high potentials for developing into spa cities and hot spring resorts. This shall be another paradise for athlete camps, resorts for health and wellness as well as beauty and body treatments.
Ladies and gentlemen – before I finish my presentation, it gives me great pleasure
to give you a quick overview of some key upcoming events.
? April 13 – 15: Songkran Festival
The water-splashing aspect of Songkran is now very well known all around the world, so during the 2008 Visit Thailand Year, we will be highlighting customs and traditions that reflect the true meaning of Songkran. For example, merit-making to ensure smooth-sailing throughout the coming year and thanksgiving – the expression of
gratitude for all the goodwill and blessings one has received and to show respect. Thanksgiving is reflected in the ceremonial aspects of Songkran such as the bathing of Buddha statues with water and the pouring of water over the hands of elders and respected individuals.
? Following the world-renowned Songkran festival, our attention turns to The PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) "CEO Challenge 2008: Confronting Climate Change". Hosted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and organized in partnership with the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) and the Burba Hotel Network (BHN), the PATA CEO Challenge presents the first opportunity for the entire travel and tourism
industry in Asia Pacific to agree on practical solutions to confront climate change, one
of the greatest global threats. The event will be held in Bangkok on April 29th and
? From June 5 – 8: (Thailand Travel Mart Plus - 2008)
We are hosting the Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+2008) Amazing Gateway to the
Mekong Sub region in conjunction with the Thailand Tourism Festival (TTF 2008),
promoting both Thailand as well as its neighboring countries in the Greater Mekong
Sub region – Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao , Vietnam and China (Yunnan and Guangxi).
? On November 12th: Loi Krathong Festival
The ‗Festival of Lights‘ is held on the full moon night of November. The most
spectacular of all the traditional Thai festivals, Loi Krathong is one of the Kingdom's
oldest and best-preserved traditions.
Finally, towards the end of this November, Phuket King's Cup Regatta inaugurated in
1987 to celebrate the 60th birthday of His Majesty the King and has been held
annually since, in honor of His Majesty who graciously agreed to be patron of the
event. The Phuket Regatta has evolved into Asia's biggest and most popular regatta
and is the jewel of the crown of the Asian Yachting Circuit. This year, the event will
be held from November 29th through to December 6th.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope I have convinced you that there‘s never a dull moment in the
Kingdom of Thailand. There‘s much to see, to do, to taste, to experience … And to write
Please do join us in the ‗Land of Smiles‘ during the ‗Visit Thailand Year‘. We promise you a
quality vacation — ‗Sanuk‘, Sabai (comfort), Aroy (great food), and the finest of Thai
Thank you for your kind attention. It has been a real pleasure being with you this afternoon.